Understanding the role & value of an Occupational Therapist

Understanding the role & value of an Occupational Therapist

Improved independence and quality of life are two of the most common goals of NDIS participants. Occupational therapy (OT) is one practice that addresses both of those goals and, for those who need it, it can be life-changing.

We spoke to occupational therapist Matthew Wong from Bloom Healthcare to better understand occupational therapy and the value it can offer.

Firstly, could you tell us a little about yourself?

I’ve been working in the community as an OT primarily under the NDIS for the past six years.

I have had experience working in a range of NDIS areas including capacity building therapy with paediatrics and adults, AT/equipment prescription, home modifications, functional
assessments and housing assessments

Tell us, what is occupational therapy?

Occupational Therapists support individuals to participate in occupations and activities that are necessary and meaningful for daily living.

Occupations can be defined as any activities that people do day to day. This includes things that people both need and want to do such as self-care tasks, mobility, driving, hobbies and interests.

We often associate OTs with ‘letters of support’ and assessments, but how else do OTs support people?

To help participants reach their goals, we need to understand participants’ strengths and challenges related to any goals or activities. This means spending time assessing participants to understand all the relevant needs.

When assessing, we look at:

  • Spending time understanding what a participant’s capacity is like at the time by chatting with the participant and the people around them e.g. parents, support workers, teachers and friends.
  • The physical environment around the participant.
  • Understanding the activity or goal itself and the components involved and taking time to also observe the participant engaging with the goal or activity.
  • For example, if a participant’s goal is to access the local shops independently, it is important to break down what is involved. This could be driving to the local shopping mall, loading a wheelchair into the car, unloading the wheelchair upon arrival, using the elevator at the shops and more.

After spending time understanding the individual and the circumstances, we then formulate strategies and recommendations.

This might include:

  • Working closely with the participant’s supports to implement strategies and embed skills
    into the participant’s routine.
  • Working directly with the participant to build skills such as increasing fine motor function to independently button up a shirt.
  • Collaborating with other therapists and supports involved in the team.
  • Making changes to the environment like home modifications.
  • Trialling assistive technology and equipment that could assist.
  • Making recommendations for housing solutions that align with the participant’s goals and needs.

How can families, support coordinators and other providers make the most of an OT’s expertise?

There are a few ways people can make the most of OTs:

  • Spend time with OTs to develop clear goals and direction for therapy and/or assessment. The more we can understand someone’s interests, passions, strengths and challenges, the better we can align the therapy with what the participant wants to achieve.
  • Ask questions to get the most from supports. For example, if you’re unsure about some equipment or AT, reach out. As OTs, we can provide advice about the long-term implications.
  • Consider flexibility: as OTs, we can be adaptable to suit what’s needed for a participant. This could mean providing weekly therapy to move faster towards goals or meeting in the physical environment to provide relevant advice.
  • Involving not just the participant, but the people around them, can also help ensure needs are fully met.

In your opinion, what are the challenges in the industry, and how does this impact participants?

Given the NDIA makes decisions on what is considered reasonable and necessary, as OTs, we can’t always give clear-cut answers about approvals.

What we can do is spend time assessing and understanding the situation and then provide options for support. We document the evidence and clinical reasoning for specific options while also aligning with the NDIA framework and guidelines.

Sometimes after an assessment, with NDIS guidelines in mind, alternative or more suitable options may arise for a goal area that may not align with initial expectations.

Through this process, your OT will maintain ongoing open communication with you so that you know what to expect. At this time, it’s best to ask questions to help the OT align with the participants’ NDIS goals.

Thanks so much for your insights and time, Matthew. If a participant or family wanted to get in touch, what is the best way to make contact?

We have several options. You can contact the team at Bloom Healthcare via email [email protected], phone 0408 148 519, or the online referral form.

We’re here to help

At myAutonomy, it’s our goal to help participants to thrive. Have a question or query? Do get in touch contact us at 1300 60 33 89 or at [email protected] and we can help.